An email conversation with golfer Sam Torrance
'Europe will win at Valhalla. I just think we've got the stronger team'
Monday 15 September 2008
You have something of a history with the Ryder Cup. Every second year around this time, does the excitement rise? Absolutely. It's electric. I had 14 years as a player and then as an assistant and a captain and I would look forward to the next one from the moment the last one finished. I might have lost the ability to compete in it, but you never lose your love of it. I'll be over there commentating and I can't wait.
Who do you think will win at Valhalla this week? Europe. Why? I just think we've got the stronger team on paper. In fact, we've had that for the last few Cups. Our strength in depth is the key now, something we never had in days gone by. We always had great top players – Seve, Faldo, Woosie, Langer – but then you got down to the likes of me. And look how good the rookies are now. I mean, Justin Rose as a rookie? That's extraordinary.
Will America miss Tiger? Of course they will. You couldn't possibly bring up any positives in not having the greatest-ever on your team. And in the Ryder Cup Tiger is not as bad as it's always made out – he was their top points scorer last time. It's just that when you play him you have nothing to lose; it is not nearly as daunting as might be imagined. He soaks up all the pressure because he is the man.
Does the Ryder Cup, as an event, need a close match this time? Not at all. It doesn't matter if Europe win by nine points again. I don't see any danger of America turning off. The Ryder Cup is bigger than that. It'll be around forever.
Whatever happened to the thrilling climaxes: Bernhard Langer's missed putt at Kiawah, Christy O'Connor Jnr's two-iron at the Belfry, Justin Leonard at Brookline? Yeah, it would be great to have another one in Kentucky, as long as it goes Europe's way, of course. Those classic finishes helped make the Ryder Cup what it is. There will be more, though, I'm certain of it.
Your captaincy in 2002 was lauded. Is there any secret to leading a Ryder Cup team? No, each captain does his own thing. It's like teaching golf: each coach will have their different style. Nick Faldo has played in 10 Ryder Cups and knows exactly what is going on. Saying that, I feel I learned more in being assistant to Mark James in Brookline in 1999 than in all of my eight appearances as a player. There is so much going on behind the scenes.
Is Faldo making a mistake in going in with just Jose Maria Olazabal as his vice-captain? I'm convinced he'll have more there helping him. You need people watching each of the games and reporting back. You cannot be everywhere at once. Then again, maybe Nick does think that he and Jose can do it on their own and who knows, he might be right.
Faldo and the British media don't seem to get along. Is that important or irrelevant? I don't know what Faldo's relationship is with the British media. All I can say is that I think it's very important to have them on your side. It runs through the team otherwise. I was fortunate as I got on extremely well with the press and so did my players. At the end of our match the boys actually all got up and applauded the media.
What one piece of advice would you give him about the captaincy? Nothing technical, just to take it all in as it's happening and to savour each and every moment. This will be the greatest week in your life, but it will be over so quickly. Within a blink of an eye it's Sunday evening.
Without Colin Montgomerie there, who do you think will emerge as the on-course leader? Padraig Harrington, of course. He's the King of the Hill after his back-to-back majors and if the world rankings were proper he'd be No 1 right now and when Tiger returned, No 2 behind him.
As a Scot how disappointing is it not to have a Scotsman playing in the Ryder Cup for the first time since 1937? Yeah, it is disappointing, but I'm not going to get too down about it. These things come in cycles. The Scots will be back. Don't you worry.
Which memory do you cherish most: holding the winning putt in 1985 or being the winning captain in 2002? The captaincy by a million miles. It's funny: if you'd said to me when I was standing there arms aloft on the Belfry's 18th green in 1985 that there was going to be a better moment in my career than that I would have thought I was going to win a major. The captaincy took me by surprise. I enjoyed it immensely.
That winning putt was the first time in 28 years America had lost. They have won only three of the next 10 stagings. What happened? I think it actually started in '83 when we lost by a point at Palm Beach Gardens in Florida. That's when the self-belief kicked in – we were all travelling back knowing we should have won. 1985 was terrific but our best win was in 1987 at Muirfield Village, beating them on a Jack Nicklaus course when they had Jack Nicklaus as captain.
Who is your bet to hold the winning putt this time? You can never tell, and it's better to keep your money in your pocket as it's never going to be who you think it is. Now, top points-scorer is something you can have a go at predicting and I'd say Harrington.
Who should be captain in 2010? A tough one. Olazabal, maybe. I would certainly never do it again. I'm not on the Tour now and am not close friends with many on the team. In my opinion, you need the camaraderie and the knowledge that comes with that.
Sam Torrance took part on behalf of BMW, the Ryder Cup Partner of the 2008 European team. The BMW Urban Golf cup final will be held on Friday at Urban Golf, Soho, London. www.urbangolf.co.uk.
*Born Samuel Robert Torrance in Largs, Ayrshire, Scotland, on 24 August, 1953
*Turned professional 1970. Made first cut in his ninth event
*1972 Wins European Tour rookie of the year
*1981 First Ryder Cup cap
*1985 Sinks the winning putt in the Ryder Cup, thus depriving the Americans of the trophy for the first time in 28 years
*1999 One of Mark James' vice-captains at Ryder Cup
*2002 Non-playing captain of the victorious European Ryder Cup team at The Belfry
2003 Awarded an OBE in recognition of his captaincy of the Ryder Cup team
*Ryder Cup caps 1981, 1983, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1995
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